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Go Tell It on the Mountain (Vintage International) Mass Market Paperback – September 12, 2013
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“Brutal, objective and compassionate.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“It is written with poetic intensity and great narrative skill.” —Harper’s
“Strong and powerful.” —Commonweal
“A sense of reality and vitality that is truly extraordinary. . . . He knows Harlem, his people, and the language they use.” —Chicago Sun-Times
“This is a distinctive book, both realistic and brutal, but a novel of extraordinary sensitivity and poetry.” —Chicago Sunday Tribune
About the Author
The appearance of The Fire Next Time in 1963, just as the civil rights movement was exploding across the American South, galvanized the nation and continues to reverberate as perhaps the most prophetic and defining statement ever written of the continuing costs of Americans’ refusal to face their own history. It became a national bestseller, and Baldwin was featured on the cover of Time magazine. Critic Irving Howe said that The Fire Next Time achieved “heights of passionate exhortation unmatched in modern American writing.” In 1964 Blues for Mister Charlie, his play based on the murder of a young black man in Mississippi, was produced by the Actors Studio in New York. That same year, Baldwin was made a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and collaborated with the photographer Richard Avedon on Nothing Personal, a series of portraits of America intended as a eulogy for the slain Medger Evers. A collection of short stories, Going to Meet the Man, was published in 1965, and in 1968, Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone, his last novel of the 1960s appeared.
In the 1970s he wrote two more collections of essays and cultural criticism: No Name in the Street (1972) and The Devil Finds Work (1976). He produced two novels: the bestselling If Beale Street Could Talk (1974) and Just Above My Head (1979) and also a children’s book Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood (1976). He collaborated with Margaret Mead on A Rap on Race (1971) and with the poet-activist Nikki Giovanni on A Dialogue (1973). He also adapted Alex Haley’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X into One Day When I Was Lost.
In the remaining years of his life, Baldwin produced a volume of poetry, Jimmy’s Blues (1983), and a final collection of essays, The Price of the Ticket. Baldwin’s last work, The Evidence of Things Not Seen (1985), was prompted by a series of child murders in Atlanta. Baldwin was made a Commander of the French Legion of Honor in June 1986. Among the other awards he received are a Eugene F. Saxon Memorial Trust Award, a Rosenwald fellowship, a Guggenheim fellowship, a Partisan Review fellowship, and a Ford Foundation grant.
James Baldwin died at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence in France on December 1, 1987.
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This book "Go Tell It on the Mountain" as of now, is one of my favorites by James Baldwin. The story depicts a family from Harlem with unwavering, Christian values, and yet bears the inner- demons of their past. Seeking redemption is never easy, and especially for the patriarch, Reverend Gabriel Grimes.
Yet the main character, a boy named John from the same family, shakes and fights for redemption. Even though his temptations were benign compared to other characters as told brilliantly by Baldwin.
And speaking of "brilliance", Baldwin's dialogue is superb! The utterance of their words through the book with the vernacular tone that remind me of my Grandmother and her Southern upbringing. The writing overall, however, is purely exceptional.
I give this book 4.7 stars, rounding to a deserving five stars, not because of James Baldwin, or his gritty prose, or the timeless content, but it's one hell of a book!
That is the feel of this book—a story told not out of want but out of need. James Baldwin’s debut has power behind every page; his words resonate, and his prose is among the best I have had the pleasure of reading. There isn’t much in the way of plot, so be aware of that going in. And it doesn’t deliver a knockout ending like I’d hoped, although as I type this, I’m smiling. Because this book is journey, not destination. And if you can get behind that, then you’re in for a good time.
I won’t get into detail, but there have been some changes at my work that have left me feeling stressed and distracted. Go Tell It on the Mountain was my escape, even if it was only for a few minutes here and there. I am sure my headspace affected my enjoyment. And perhaps, like with Big Magic, I’ll return to it in a better mood and come away with a better experience.
For now, I’m glad to have read this, and to continue reading more James Baldwin in the future. 4/5
James Baldwin brooks no deceit nor conceit, as he engages.
In full throttle, in this book, he can be mercilessly unyielding as he fearlessly and unapologetically expose and excoriate the tainted and timid. He savagely endures no prisoner.
Nonetheless, he’s remarkably deep and candid!
The writer is ferociously committed and capable of delving into and navigating the most intricate and labyrinthine contours of the human soul, and clinically, analysing its subtleties: foibles, pretensions, relationships etc.
And he extends this unerring capacity to capturing the sheer essence of the spiritual and elemental forces of life and nature, and their respective constituents.
With studied ease and confidence, he repeatedly and effortlessly unleashes his talent to achieve this feat throughout the book.
Such talent....., certainly, prodigious and beyond the mere ability to craft majestic and tantalising prose.
On the whole - and in the wider context - the book is a masterful portraiture of the relentless ugliness, darkness, misery, melancholy and gloom that typifies and envelops black life in the early 20th century America. A naked byproduct of the scandalously shameful American racism that lingers till date.
The work is ceaselessly deep, compelling and enthralling!
And no wonder it’s, dutifully, enshrined a classic.
A book for all time and for all that seek to know!
The church event which John and his relatives attend is a tarry service, a typical feature of Pentecostal churches. During this activity worshippers spend hours attempting to commune with god and receive his blessing, either individually or together, through such mediums as song and intense prayer; the activity features moaning and shouting when the spiritual experience is at its most intense. During the tarry service, John’s parents Gabriel and Elizabeth, along with Gabriel’s sister Florence, each reminisce to themselves about events that took place decades earlier. These flashbacks take up much of the novel. They all describe the struggles of Gabriel, Elizabeth and Florence to overcome the circumstances into which they were born: poor and black in the deep south. They all in different ways struggle for dignity and happiness—including by moving out of the south to New York City--but come up well short of achieving their dreams. Racism remains a burden upon them in the north as much as it did in the south. The story of these struggles are told very skillfully and are not a little moving. Gabriel is a particularly interesting figure. In his early 20’s, he abandons a life of womanizing and drinking for service to the Lord. He becomes a minister renowned in his home region of the deep south for his powerful preaching and spiritual fervor. The narrator shows that Gabriel’s faith is completely sincere; however, even after he is well-established in his new holy life, he cannot restrain himself from delving into sin, the consequences for which end up being particularly severe and will destroy him should knowledge of them become well known. Gabriel is harsh and unloving towards John, even though John is a well-behaved boy. In the story, Gabriel’s sister Florence sees a clear connection between his treatment of John and the above-mentioned sin and its devastating consequences. She sees Gabriel as a disgusting fraud—with his position as a deacon in the church and the harshly moral Christianity he espouses--and yearns for an opportunity to expose his secret past and thereby destroy him.
At one point in the novel, John has a completely unexpected religious experience. Religious persons would probably describe this event as an act of god. Non-religious persons would perhaps be interested in the psychological processes which lead John to this experience, but these factors are not presented with any coherence or depth. Prior to this event, it appeared that John was a youngster who was hostile to his family's religious devotions. I did not see it but It is perhaps possible that John's evolution on religion can be detected in Baldwin's description of John's attitude toward Elisha, the devout 17 year old. In any case, the author does a decent job linking John's religious experience with his efforts to cope with his father's tyranny.
The characters in the story seemed real to me in the tragedy of their lives—the miserable experience of Elizabeth as an unwed mother is another well-told part of the story. The author does a good job of imparting to the reader the rough, lower class environment in which the characters live. Sexual acts are occasionally briefly referred to—not anywhere near the level of Henry Miller-type obscenity but still in ways that might have been seen as exceedingly frank by guardians of the obscenity standards that prevailed in the early 50s. Rarely, the characters use profanity. For example, at one point, a secondary character named Richard utters a well-known profanity which contains the word “mother” in it.
Top international reviews
Although 60 years old, it reveals that not much has changed and that most fanatic religious people most of the time or the most hypocrite sinners
beautiful story, but expected more of the end